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FROM DESPAIR TO HOPE: UNITED FOR KIDS!

Our schools receive notice every day of students suffering intense family/legal/medical crises, including drug arrests, assault charges, suicide, self-mutilation, parental/sexual abuse, teen pregnancies, etc. Though our students outperform most of Texas in terms of academics, fine arts, athletics, and other areas, these life crises touch many of our own. What is the cause? I believe our country’s moral climate is rapidly deteriorating, and many students don’t know where or from Whom real HOPE comes. Our schools and the greater community cannot remain neutral in the culture wars raging around us. Pearland has shown potential to be that “shining city on a hill” rescuing children from despair. Such work is not done in isolation.

The Maginot Line was built by France in the 1930s to protect against a resurgent German military. Trench warfare dominated World War I; thus, the idea was to build an impressive physical boundary against aggression. The long and expensive project consisted of concrete fortifications, obstacles, troops, and weapons. Unfortunately, neutral Belgium next door did not participate. So when Hitler sought to invade France in 1940, the Nazis simply sidestepped around the Maginot Line and invaded France through “neutral” Belgium. Evil found a way, using the ineffective neutrality of a neighboring country. The magnificent Maginot Line was an isolated and ineffective anachronism.

This is a warning for today. The American schools of the 21st century cannot cope, by themselves, with the onslaught of family/youth problems now plaguing our culture. Likewise, community civic organizations, churches, and individuals can’t succeed in isolation nor declare themselves “neutral.” So last school year, our community began meeting together under a “United for Kids” banner. About 50 to 60 of us meet once a month. You are invited.

Some of the participants include the Brazoria County Alliance for Children, the YMCA, United Way, Women in Leadership Society, local churches, Chamber of Commerce, Community Assistance Provider, Goodwill, Kids Hope USA, Pearland ISD administrators, PTAs, Pearland Neighborhood Association, Counseling Connections for Change, political party clubs, Pearland Police Department, city and county administrators/officials, Young Life, Adult Reading Center, Christian Helping Hands, Forgotten Angels,  our local constable, H-E-B, Lion’s Club, Rotary Club, etc. The list goes on.

Members of that group reached out with resources when a family’s home burned down and when another’s became homeless. Others needing emergency medical care were given access and funds overnight. We’ve provided gifts at Christmas to 400 needy families in 2013 and again in 2014. At each meeting, we hear presentations on services provided by community organizations so we know where to turn when kids or families are in need. At our most recent meeting, Women in Leadership and Brazoria County Alliance for Children spoke about helping single moms and abused kids. Then Pastor Hartwell from the Cross Roads Community Church in Pearland gave a detailed presentation on their own large and growing tutorial program (called #iCan) hosted at his church on Wednesday nights. This program reaches out to students at four of our Pearland ISD schools and is designed to give kids the skills, confidence, and encouragement needed to pass state mandated STAAR tests — and to face the daunting challenges of this world.

Allow me another World War II analogy. The tiny village of Le Chambon in southern France came under Nazi occupation in 1940. But under the leadership of local pastors, public school officials, and a private school principal, villagers hid and fed 5,000 Jews and other refugees right under the nose of Nazi evil. The schools grew and thrived. Small church groups met, prayed, and provided food. Sacrifices were made. Lives were saved. A little way down the road, another village called Le Mazet . . . did nothing. The distance between these two villages makes all the difference — then and now. . . .

In today’s culture, many children despair. They place their hopes in harmful and misguided attempts to escape their circumstances. An ancient book provides the ultimate answer: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him.” When we work together to save children from despair, surely His blessing is present. Lives are saved. Sacrifices are made. Hope replaces despair.

The next meeting of “United for Kids” will be on April 23, 8:30 a.m., at the Education Support Center, 1928 N. Main in Pearland. Hope to see you then. If you would like to attend, please contact Director of Communications Kim Hocott at hocottk@pearlandisd.org.

TRUANCY “DE-CRIMINALIZED”?

I am extremely concerned about a growing movement among Texas legislators this session to water down legal consequences for truancy and other offenses. In Orwellian doublespeak, proponents of this movement call it “de-criminalization.” The same legislators also use the phrase “school-to-prison pipeline” as justifying their position. Truly, de-criminalization should be called “hyper-criminalization,” and the “school-to-prison pipeline” flooded if the legislation passes.

Let me explain.

Senator Whitmire, a democrat from the Houston area, is chair of the Criminal Justice Committee and is the best-known of many “de-criminalization” bill advocates in Texas. He believes students and parents are too often facing legal consequences for excessive absences from school. I’ve heard him tell a story about overwrought moms calling him with stories about how the judicial system is picking on them despite the many life challenges they face. Though schools have no legal authority over parents, he wants to place an even greater burden on the schools to track down and miraculously compel student attendance. And he calls this “local control” when, in fact, it imposes new state law preventing the local judiciary from acting! I’m sure that he and other legislators do care about students and parents, but the efforts are misguided.

In Pearland ISD, as in most  of Texas, we make mighty efforts to get truant kids in school BEFORE resorting to the courts. Despite what the de-criminalization advocates say, we do have discretion about referrals when there are valid and compassionate reasons to wait. So when we do finally refer the matter to Judge Starkenburg, it is because of a large volume of unexcused absences. The judge is straightforward, merciful, meticulous, and helpful such that the higher goal can be reached: Kids attend school, and parents face up to their responsibilities.

Consequently, we have a drop-out rate here of 1%. We have a high school completion rate north of 96%. We also have a daily attendance rate of 96%. Do we really need our legislators to change what’s working for us?

State and federal politicians combine this “de-criminalization” of truancy with a larger push to stop what they claim is  over-representation of minority students receiving discipline consequences. Democrats have joined Republican Education Commissioner Michael Williams in advocating this effort — as well as President Obama’s Department of Education. The assumption (though never stated) is that legions of racists are making disciplinary decisions — and therefore a quota system to constrain them is necessary. And if such limits are not enforced, society is widening the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

The reverse is true. Does anyone seriously believe that truant students spending all day outside of school are LESS likely to commit crimes leading to a prison record? By allowing students and parents to avoid legal responsibility for truancy and other offenses, society guarantees a new “hyper-criminalized” class of students who don’t attend school, are idle all day, and are MORE likely to use drugs and commit crimes. Consequently, more economically-disadvantaged minority students are disproportionately left WITHOUT a high school diploma, WITH a serious criminal record for offenses committed, and WITHOUT a chance to achieve the American dream. In short, the  diameter of the “school-to-prison pipeline” is widened, not constricted.

After writing my first draft of this column today, I visited one of our schools. As I talked with the principal, we were interrupted by a crisis in the hallway. A young student became angry and disoriented after being caught under the influence of a drug. He began running away from the office. A school police officer was on-site and restrained him before he did further damage to himself or others. He then firmly and compassionately put his arm on the boy’s shoulder, walking him up and down the hallway until the student was calm. That is typical of our police officers and our local judiciary. They return students down the right path when they run away from school.

So let’s be realistic. Most Texans don’t believe that bad behavior is caused by requiring legal consequences for it! I implore our citizens to protest these legislative efforts underway right now in Austin. Otherwise, Texas is GUARANTEEING more drop-outs and more criminal records.

 

MY VIEWS ON ACCOUNTABILITY AND STANDARDIZED TESTING

While I agree that state standardized testing is overdone, my views on testing and accountability are somewhat different from most other Texas superintendents and many members of the public.

Federal accountability: President Bush made a mistake by introducing federal accountability over states and local school districts through No Child Left Behind legislation. Such federal power is NOT found in the U.S. Constitution — and is reserved for the states (see the 10th Amendment). I believe the role of the federal government should be greatly reduced (as President Reagan believed). I admit there has been some beneficial federal intervention/funding in special education and in the area of civil rights. But even those areas are now ever-expanding and perennially under-funded. President Obama has made the situation worse by forcing states to compete for funding (i.e. “Race to the Top”) with “winners” — only those who adhere to the newest federal “fads.” (For brevity’s sake, I won’t go into arguments about the Common Core, teacher evaluation, charter schools, and other such topics.) Most Texas superintendents might agree with me on this….

State accountability: But I strongly disagree with those who want to eliminate or water down state accountability over school districts. I believe Texas SHOULD hold school districts accountable by comparing them on similar measures so it can be determined where each district stands. Many school folks want to completely eliminate state accountability and substitute a locally developed (“community-based”) system. That’s a veiled attempt to avoid comparisons and lower pressure on schools. While folks justify their views under the banner of “local control,” “community priorities,” and “deeper learning,” there remain basic achievement measures upon which ALL districts in Texas should be compared and held accountable.

Just as athletes, teams, and companies strive to be the best, so should all school districts. We SHOULD be compared on various student achievement and financial criteria. We should identify the best among us. And if a school district is awful and content to stay that way, the state should step in and exercise greater oversight.

I believe the current Texas accountability system is useful as a starting place. But it can better distinguish among districts in terms of the challenges unique to each. For example, when wealthy, educationally-advantaged Highland Park ISD students have high test scores, such results are rightfully acknowledged. But I would find quantifiable ways to honor most highly those districts with more challenging demographics that achieve miracles in relation to their realities. Give Highland Park the “Born with a Silver Spoon in Its Mouth” award for high test scores. But give the more prestigious prize to the economically/ethnically diverse district that achieves far beyond what might be predicted. Reward those outliers!

Standardized testing: Yes, standardized testing in Texas has become overkill. I applaud the legislature action in 2013 to reduce the number of  high school STATE tests prior to graduation from 15 to 5. While the entire nation already uses the SAT, the ACT, and AP tests to assess college readiness, it was ridiculous to add 15 more. Compared to any other state, we had 3 times the number of tests required for graduation! But I do not agree with those who want to completely eliminate K-12 standardized testing. We do need valid measures for comparing every school district’s progress in each grade.

So SOME standardized testing is essential and provides a valid basis for determining whether students are mastering the curriculum in the academic core areas such as reading, math, science, and social studies. Although many disagree, I believe students should be tested, in some nationally comparable way, in all grades K-12. I say that a nationally normed, end of year test in kindergarten and succeeding years won’t devastate children nor confine instruction only to “the test.” There are various  existing national tests useful for these purposes. These include the existing College Board SAT, ACT, Advanced Placement, and K-8 instruments such as the California Achievement Tests. (By the way, current “No Child Left Behind” rules won’t allow  such national tests to satisfy federal mandates — hence federal funding would be withheld.)

Nationally-normed test results can be disaggregated (as Texas tests are now) by ethnicity, English language learners, economically disadvantaged students, etc. Also, progress measures can be incorporated whereby individual student scores are compared to the previous year results. All such factors can continue to be built into the state’s accountability system using national tests. That would save Texas BILLIONS of dollars and NOT require a rewriting of the laudable Texas curriculum standards (TEKS). And Texas would know more than we do now about how we stack up against the rest of the nation.

We need not spend the entire year worrying about standardized tests to the exclusion of everything else schools now do. The testing emphasis in grades K-10 should be on diagnosis and intervention — such that a good foundation exists before high school. We can build upon those basic foundational skills in reading, math, science, and social studies as we continue to enrich the curriculum in other subjects and activities.

So here is my  proposal for Texas public school accountability:

1. Test at least 90% of the students on math and reading in grades K-9 using already existing nationally-normed tests. (Incidentally, this would greatly upset Pearson executives, whose testing company is a Texas monopoly!)

2. Test at least 90% of the students in social studies and science at the end of 5th and 8th grades.

3. Test at least 90% of the student body in grades 10-12 on the PSAT, SAT, and/or ACT.

4. Test at least 50% of each year’s graduating class on one or more College Board Advanced Placement tests.

5. Allow school districts to exclude up to 10% of the students from standardized tests who are identified as having valid disabilities.  Making such students take grade-level standardized tests is irrelevant and cruel.

6. Those who do not meet minimum graduation standards (as set by the state) on the PSAT, SAT, ACT, or AP tests can alternatively meet high school graduation requirements by successful attainment of rigorous career area certificates in various occupational fields. Such certifications would be earned in coordination with dual credit opportunities offered by community colleges and universities. Honor the hard training and occupations of the working man/woman! We need them more than society knows!

7. Use the Texas school financial accountability measures already in place. They are reasonable. These include the FIRST system, the FAST system, and elements of the TAPR. The TAPR already compares school districts on many different variables, including student achievement, completion rates, budget, staffing, taxes, etc.

8. Re-establish labels for overall achievement in school districts such as Exemplary, Recognized, Acceptable, and Unacceptable. But use fairer formulas to assign such labels. Take into account the measurable challenges they face (such as demographic variables, funding levels, language barriers, etc.). Ensure that the least-wealthy school district in Texas has equal opportunity for commendation — as compared to “silver spoon” districts.

Perhaps I’ve upset some through these ideas. But I believe such a system would be fair, competitive, and a significant improvement over the current state of affairs.

CONTACTING OUR SCHOOLS

Parents of today’s students have  unprecedented opportunities for rapid communication with our public schools.  The availability of email, websites, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets provides an entire new universe of tools and with it, an expectation for instant contact, particularly among younger parents.  We try to oblige…

Just one example:  As recently as 10 years ago, parents generally found out about their child’s progress through receiving a report card.  Perhaps they might also get an email, phone call, or handwritten note from the teacher when necessary.  As the father of seven children, I am amazed at the changes since then.  Here in Pearland ISD (for example), the Skyward system gives instant parental/student access for parents to view every posted grade.  Parents can receive automatic email alerts when their child’s grades are below expectations.  Thus, my wife (more than me) checks Skyward almost every day to determine how our children are doing,  whether they’ve turned in their  homework, how they did on the big test, etc.

With this convenience comes even greater desire for instant feedback from teachers when grade or discipline problems surface.  Frankly, our hard-working teachers often struggle to keep up with the demand.  Parents can forget that the typical  high school teacher may instruct as many as 150 students per day. Or that the typical elementary teacher is providing instruction in as many as five or six areas every day.  Consequently, they are not going to be instantly familiar with or available to answer the questions posed by a panic-stricken mom who just realized her child failed a major test – or is being sent to detention for name calling.

There is a middle ground somewhere between today’s expectations for instant communication – and the realities of a teacher/administrator workload.  Here are some things to keep in mind when parents desire communication on academic, discipline, extra-curricular, or other issues/problems:

  • Follow the chain of command.  Begin with the person directly responsible for the problem/situation you’ve identified.  Usually, that means the teacher or the counselor serving your child.  Be nice.  It generally works a whole lot better.
  • If the concern/problem is not solved at that initial level, then proceed to talk to the administrator on the campus (assistant principal or principal).  Again, realize that the principal is responsible for hundreds (or thousands) of students.
  • Our board policy specifically states that  issues should first be approached informally and at the lowest level possible.  But if informal methods aren’t satisfactory, parents can use the formal complaint procedures as outlined in our board policy manual (available on our district website).
  • When people jump over the chain of command and contact the board or superintendent first, the issue will be referred back down the chain of command to the appropriate person. Therefore, it is generally better to talk directly to the person involved rather than to go above their head.  In the long run, this produces much more lasting solutions and certainly better communication with the people daily serving your child.
  • When you request an appointment, please don’t expect that to occur within the next hour or even within the next 12 hours unless it is a true emergency.  (A true emergency is not “My kid is failing, and I’m free in 20 minutes.”)
  • If you e-mail or call to talk to a teacher/principal, it is reasonable to expect a response within 24  hours.  We emphasize this with our faculty/staff – as an expectation.
  • In general, make use of the Golden Rule:  Treat the teachers and staff in the same way you want to be treated.

Frankly, our school district must now provide additional training to our people on enhanced customer service techniques.  Why?  In our society now, those who want instant gratification often shout and scream when they don’t get what they want at the instant they make contact.  Thus, training on the unreasonable “customer” is becoming increasingly necessary.

Unfortunately, those most likely to read this blog are NOT those who most need to hear this.  But perhaps the word will spread…And I so appreciate the majority of our parents who already know and practice these things!

COLLEGE PREP TEST RESULTS – ALL TIME HIGHS!

Skyrocketing Pearland ISD averages on the SAT test and other college prep indicators are reasons to celebrate!

The average SAT reading score in Pearland ISD for the class of 2014 is 515, Math 530, and Writing 500. When combined, this is an average score of 1545, compared to a Texas-wide average score of 1432. Our scores increased (in one year!) by 18 points in reading, 21 points in math, and 20 points in writing — while Texas-wide scores decreased on each of the 3 tests! These stellar results were accomplished even though we tested MORE students in 2014 than in 2013. (Approximately 65-70% of our graduating seniors take either or both the SAT and ACT before graduation.)

Similarly, our College Board ACT scores reached an all time high of 22.5. This compares to a state average of 20.9.

Not coincidentally, we’ve also experienced a massive increase in the number of students taking Pre-Advanced Placement and College Board Advanced Placement courses. These college-level courses are the best preparation for university study. Perhaps one of the most amazing statistics for the Pearland ISD graduating class is that 126 students achieved the national honor titled “Scholars with Distinction” for passing 5 or more AP tests. That’s a 40% increase over the previous year.

On top of that, we’ve seen a massive increase in the number of students taking dual credit (college/high school) courses within Pearland ISD. For the current year (2014-15) we have 2,270 students taking such courses — twice the number enrolled 5 years ago.

For charts/graphs on these figures, see this link:  Student Assessment Results – College Readiness

On top of the academic honors, these results represent a combined savings to PARENTS of millions of dollars in tuition when our students enroll in colleges and universities. For example, comparing the college hours earned in Pearland ISD with the tuition charged by Texas A&M, we calculated a collective savings of approximately $5.8 million. As the father of seven children, I can’t begin to tell you how valuable that is!

I am incredibly happy with these district results. Our students, teachers, and principals deserve primary credit. What are some of the contributing factors that accelerated student accomplishment in this area?

  • The massive increase in Pre-AP and AP enrollment over the past several years — beginning in grade 5 and above
  • The massive increase in the number of students taking college-level dual credit courses
  • Last year, we began elective courses in SAT/ACT prep. Approximately 200 students took that course. We’ve also made available other commercially available SAT/ACT prep opportunities.
  • We’re rewarding teachers whose students have both high participation rates and passing rates on AP tests. (We’re expanding our incentives this year to include results on the state-mandated STAAR and EOC tests.)
  • Our Advanced Academics Department has been doing many different things to infuse college-level material/programs/classes into our district-wide efforts — and have tracked results. And new innovations/AP courses have just begun this 2014-15 school year.
  • Our Curriculum & Instruction staff has worked to embed SAT/ACT/AP-level material into the standard curriculum for each grade level — and to train our teachers on its use.

Our people are working hard to sustain and enlarge upon these stellar results. In and of itself, that is a formidable challenge, but our people are incredible!

 

MORE BRICKS WITHOUT STRAW?

I’m underwhelmed by Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams’ response to the excellent (and obvious) recent ruling by Judge Dietz on the Texas school funding case. In that ruling, the judge found our current state funding system inequitable, inadequate, and essentially indefensible. But Commissioner Williams then stated, “It should be our state leaders making those decisions, not a single judge.” His statement inexplicably parrots a few other Texas politicians.

On the other hand, the Commissioner has often and admirably trumpeted higher standards for public schools and specifically the need to address minority/disadvantaged student achievement gaps. And I’m sure he would agree that one’s ZIP code should not determine the level of state funding (unlike today). And I believe he knows less wealthy communities need help to overcome significant educational/societal deficits. Moreover, I just read he is now asking for additional funds for his understaffed Austin-based agency (TEA)! So why not applaud the judge who’s requiring equitable and additional funding for all Texas schools?

Some state politicians with whom our Commissioner must “hobnob” mimic a certain ancient Egyptian pharaoh. When asked to “let the people go,” he was annoyed by their request, told them to increase the quota of bricks they produced, and directed them to find their own straw. We know how that turned out.

How is it that public schools are to provide the additional services required by economically-disadvantaged students — without additional funding? Is it realistic to ask teachers or administrators to work harder or longer? They are already under an incredible burden.

Don’t misunderstand. I do not believe throwing money at problems magically improves results. As I wrote in my previous blog, parental guidance/responsibility is the key variable predicting student achievement for both poor and rich kids. But when the family unit breaks down, the schools are tasked with doing more for those who need it most. Our educators already volunteer way above and beyond — with both their time and their personal funds. They can’t shoulder the burden alone. Additional staff and resources are needed for even more tutoring, mentoring, technology, after-school activity, and other services. Such supplements aren’t free.

Now with regard to Pearland ISD, we are judged by the Texas Comptroller’s Office as a FIVE-STAR district for financial efficiency and student performance. We are one of fewer than a dozen school districts (out of over 1,000) that has achieved this rating every year. Why? In state funding per student, we currently rank 38th out of the 50 school districts in the Houston region — and yet out-perform almost all of them. But like every other district, we have achievement gaps among our student sub-populations. Thus, the phrase “blood out of a turnip” comes to mind. Equitable and adequate funding will help.

Commissioner Williams is an admirable example of an African-American man overcoming obstacles on his rise to the top of Texas leadership. I believe his dedication to increasing minority/disadvantaged achievement is sincere. But educators don’t need sound bites carefully nuanced to placate politicians. Take a stronger stand!

If you want achievement to climb, “let our people go” by empowering educators and students to do more. Equitable and adequate funding helps that happen.

 

PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT: ELEVATED AND RE-DEFINED

National/state newspaper editorials from business interests rightly complain about the unpreparedness of many high school graduates for occupational and higher education success. TED talk experts on the web speak to the “crisis” in public education and offer highbrow solutions.

But from my point of view, most editorials/experts either omit or barely mention the most important and OBVIOUS variable affecting student achievement: PARENTS! In the absence of good parenting, very few students achieve.

If you want a rock-solid barometer with which to predict success in individual public schools, here it is: Parental responsibility. I don’t mean parents who fancy themselves as advocates for their children in the sense of forcing others to do more or pay more. I mean parents who roll up their sleeves and spend hours at night and on weekends helping their children learn, providing them enriching experiences, and insisting that their children get the work done. If there are enough of those parents in a community, the public schools shine. In such communities, most kindergarteners come to school already knowing the alphabet (or are reading). Their brightest and hardest-working 12th-graders go on to Harvard and Berkeley (as in Pearland). Others get good jobs with good futures in skilled occupations. The PTAs in those communities exist to HELP teachers, not complain about them. In turn, kids graduate with the sense that achievement is their own responsibility, not someone else’s.

In the school district I previously served, one of the moms berated the schools for serving pizza and potato chips instead of more nutritional lunch fare. This mom was at least 50 pounds overweight herself but apparently believed she was a victim of greedy potato chip companies. We had her child for 8 hours a day on 5 days of the week. She oversaw her child for the other 16 hours of the day, 24 hours a day on weekends — and for 24/7 in the summer. Moreover, we never prohibited her or any parent from preparing/bringing a lunch from home. Therefore, she merely shifted her responsibility for obesity to the public schools. (And incidentally, the state and federal governments are now taking the same approach by mandating school lunch menu choices.)

But my definition of the most outstanding PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT is NOT serving as a “helicopter parent,” making sure that no other child, teacher, or school does anything to displease you. It is not serving as a “snowplow parent,” blasting all obstacles out of your children’s way so they never face difficulty. Instead, it is making sure YOU as a parent are doing enough for your children, mostly by constantly placing the responsibility for learning and behavior squarely on their young shoulders and on yours, often at night (in those torturous episodes called homework).

What are the realities most affecting ideal parenting now — in the midst of this public school criticism?

  • Divorce: About half of current marriages in the U.S. end in divorce.
  • Poverty: American poverty can best be described as single, unmarried, or divorced moms raising kids alone.
  • Education: The educational level of the parent(s) more often reflects the educational attainment of their children.
  • Work: Parents with difficult jobs are so busy that the education of their children is placed solely on the backs of teachers.
  • Priorities: Sports, cheerleading, and other school activities are deemed most important — though remotely connected to academics and test scores.
  • Blame: Parents believe their children and themselves are “victims” needing public schools to do more and more and more.
  • Morality: Our increasingly lawless society rejects God and substitutes pleasure as its highest reward.

And please don’t exaggerate IQ or privilege as primarily responsible for the different outcomes among students. As research has revealed, the most successful students are those with GRIT, who work hard and persevere through failure before achieving success. Such students are most often inspired by one or more loving parents guiding them.

Now if many children and parents seize the opportunities available (AP courses, SAT Prep, career/technical courses, foreign language, music, drama, athletics, tutorials, etc., etc., etc.) and excel, are others really barred from such accomplishment? In truth, public schools now offer more individualized help and a greater variety of learning opportunities than ever before. Hard-working students can now earn 60 hours of college credit and even an Associate’s Degree through public schools. But there is an old saying that captures the problem: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

So where are the best-rated schools? Where do you find top students going to the top universities? Look for communities in which education is highly valued, where there are parents reading to their kids before kindergarten, where stability and meaningful occupations are embraced through hard work, and where there are more churches than bars.

Our Pearland students collectively achieve more than most communities on standardized tests. Yet there aren’t a lot of kids born with silver spoons in their mouths here. We are a middle class community valuing education and hard work with above-average educational attainment among our adult population. A few miles north, this is not so, and school ratings are predictably lower. Frankly, schools and students serving dysfunctional families must work harder to achieve the same results.

Why? When the public schools assume the parental burden, the system begins to collapse of its own weight, needing funds and resources far beyond that required for others. In short, there isn’t enough money to adequately substitute for parental responsibility.

I salute the majority of parents in Pearland ISD who help their children learn and who teach them personal responsibility and a work ethic. Frankly, without such parents, our best efforts aren’t enough.